Papa Don't Preach

Scott Kara's (rough) guide to being a father.

Scott Kara: Obesity issue? Look to parents first

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Parents set the agenda for a child's health and wellbeing. Thus our childhood obesity issue may be stemming from poor examples set by parents with unhealthy eating habits. Photo / Thinkstock
Parents set the agenda for a child's health and wellbeing. Thus our childhood obesity issue may be stemming from poor examples set by parents with unhealthy eating habits. Photo / Thinkstock

Have you been to the food court lately? It's school holiday time and all around the country, these places are filled with the joyous sounds of kids and adults chowing down on their favourite treats.

I was at my local food court in Auckland's St Lukes mall the other day and there were people walking everywhere, with plates piled high with greasy, glistening mountains of deep fry from the buffet. The sheer volume of food some people can put away is quite something - and this was just before lunch.

It's difficult to know the right way to say this, without sounding like a preacher and a prat, but judging by the food court scene, it's no wonder New Zealand has an obesity problem. The people carrying those big plates of food were big - some very big - and they had large kids in tow.

Yes, it's the school holidays and children do deserve treats. My kids eat McDonalds occasionally, they have ice blocks and lollies, and they like nothing better than pie and chips with lashings of tomato sauce on a Friday night (that's if we don't have takeaways).

But these are treats, and for the majority of the week they get bog standard fare - meat and vege - just like the meals my folks used to feed my sister and I. That mantra, "if you don't eat your greens you're not having any pudding", was pretty much my lot when I was a kid (apart from fish and chips on Friday night). And it's the same in our household.

I know just as much as anyone, that it can be costly to feed a family well. Fresh veggies can be ridiculously expensive, but I reckon the frozen ones are just as good for you and often fresher than the floppy broccoli or limp lettuce available in the bins.

So, back to the foodcourt. You can't help but wonder if parents or caregivers are giving their kids license to over eat by the example they set.

Of course there are sound reasons why some people are overweight - be it a medical condition or for the simple fact that some people are built big.

But when you are a kid, being overweight is not only hard on your heart, it can also hit their self-esteem. I heard the taunts the big kids got when I was at school, and I'm pretty sure not much has changed.

A recent Herald article outlined the success of Project Energize in the Waikato, which is a school-based nutrition and physical activity program. The figures speak for themselves; the waist measurement for 10-year-olds in the project shrunk 4cm and 15 per cent fewer were overweight or obese.

I reckon it's all about teaching your kids to eat nice, healthy food and staying active - and a lot relies on a parent leading by example. Pretty simple really, and far better than having a child grow up overweight - not to mention the health complications it could lead to later in life.

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